Moscow police break up overnight anti-Putin protest

 

Police today broke up a demonstration by hundreds of opposition activists who had spent the night outside the presidential administration offices to protest Vladimir Putin's return as Russia's president.

Two prominent opposition leaders who had called their supporters to the small square in central Moscow were detained by police in the early hours of the morning but later released.

They then joined up with dozens of their supporters who had moved on to another square, where they vowed to continue the roving protest.

"If we are pushed away from here, we'll move to other squares," said Sergei Udaltsov, the leader of a leftist movement. "The objective is to have people on the squares every day who are struggling for freedom, for change. It is a very simple tactic, and I think it has a chance to bring a successful result."

The cat-and-mouse game between protesters and police began yesterday, the day of Putin's inauguration at a formal ceremony inside the Kremlin. Hundreds of activists tried to protest near Red Square and along the route Putin's motorcade took to the Kremlin, but they were turned back or detained by thousands of riot police.

Police said they made about 300 detentions yesterday, but in some cases the same people were detained and then released more than once.

Tens of thousands attended anti-Putin protest rallies in the months before the March election. Since then the numbers have dwindled, but the protest movement has shown an unexpected resilience. A demonstration on the eve of the inauguration drew well more than 20,000.

Putin has been in power since 2000, first as president and then for the past four years as prime minister. He has just begun a six-year term and would be eligible for a fourth term.

AP

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